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Mayor: Tucson will keep vaccine mandate in place despite Ducey's new executive order

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Ducey Romero

TUCSON (KVOA) - The City of Tucson will continue enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for its employees in light of Gov. Doug Ducey's latest executive order, according to a release from Mayor Regina Romero issued Friday.

With Notice of Intent to Terminate letters rolling out to unvaccinated city employees, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a new executive order Wednesday that banned the state, city, town and county governmental entities from requiring anyone from obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine unless they are employed by a health care institution.

As President Joe Biden's own federal executive order mandated all employers with more than 100 workers must require their employees to get vaccinated or receive weekly COVID-19 tests, Romero released a statement Friday stating that the city will keep its current COVID-19 vaccine policy in place.

“Arizona Attorney General Brnovich already told the Governor what he doesn’t want to hear. He has no authority to preempt local actions through executive orders," the mayor said. “The governor needs to focus on the crisis at hand as COVID-19 cases rise. He can’t say that he’s for public health and tie the hands of cities and counties as the pandemic surges to record levels and hospital ICU beds dwindle.”

According to a report from 12 News, Banner Health officials stated that "one-third of its ICU beds are occupied by unvaccinated COVID-19 patients statewide; 88% of those COVID patients were unvaccinated."

In addition, Arizona Department of Health Services said "39% of ICU beds across hospitals are being taken by COVID patients as of Dec. 10."

The City of Tucson's vaccine policy been the center of controversy since it was initially approved on Aug. 13.

Passed in a 6-1 vote, the ordinance gave city employees until Aug. 20 to receive proof of vaccination from at least 750 members of its unvaccinated workforce. After failing to reach that threshold, the ordinance then required all city employees to provide proof of vaccination by Aug. 24 or face a five-day suspension without pay.

After a judge denied to delay the deadline during the hearing for a lawsuit filed by Tucson Police Officers AssociationArizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich attempted to halt the city's ordinance in its tracks, stating that the mandate was illegal and directly violates Senate Bill 1824 - a law that was expected to go in effect Sept. 29.

Brnovich initially gave the city 30 days to rescind the order. However, the city was given the go-ahead to keep their vaccine mandate in place when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled that a series of COVID-19 related laws passed by the state legislature were unconstitutional on Sept. 27

In addition, President Joe Biden also implemented a federal mandate that says all employers with more than 100 workers must require their employees to get vaccinated or receive weekly COVID-19 tests.

With the City of Tucson employing more than 2,000 people, the city decided to continue pursuing enforcing its vaccine policy, toughening the punishment for its unvaccinated employees on Oct. 19 when the city voted 4-3 to terminate its employees who are not vaccinated by December.

According to the updated ordinance, city of employees who have not received at least one shot of the vaccine and have not received an approved exception or accommodation from the city will have by 5 p.m. on Dec. 1 will receive a Notice of Intent to Terminate as soon as Dec. 3.

In Friday's release, Romero said "99% of city employees have complied with the City’s requirement and/or have been granted an exemption."

“Our employees answered the call to protect each other and protect our community,” she said.

This news came after Pima County verified its first case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. It was reported in Tucson in early December.

The state saw its first Omicron case in Yavapai County on Dec. 8.

After reporting 3,686 new cases on Friday, 1,330,594 total COVID-19 cases have been observed in Arizona. The Grand Canyon State's COVID-19 death toll also rose to 23,487 after reporting 143 new deaths.

Here in Pima County, 69.3 percent of people are vaccinated.

Have a news tip or would like to report a typo? Email Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@kvoa.com.

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